16,000 +

research and innovation projects funded

$250M

invested in 2019-20

$858M +

invested in the last 10 years

33,000

researchers in our network

6,000 +

industry partners

117

post-secondary partners

6,000 +

international research internships

1,450 +

professional skills courses

22,000 +

training participants
Orano groundwater
Orano groundwater
Case Study

Turning the tide

on groundwater contamination

Takeaways

  • Uranium mining in Canada is a $1.2 billion export annually.
  • Mining for uranium can cause environmental contamination and endanger human health, so comprehensive remediation requirements must be implemented before Canadian businesses can begin a mining project.
  • The complexities and high cost involved with remediation are extremely challenging — and can be a deterrent — for companies looking to launch a uranium-mining project.
  • A Mitacs-funded industry-academic collaboration between Orano Canada and the University of Saskatchewan has discovered that bacteria found in waste rock might prevent environmental contamination caused by uranium mining.

Power stations around the world use uranium as fuel, and mining uranium has become a $1.2 billion export from Canada. But Canadian companies looking to launch uranium-mining projects face many challenges — most notably, the potential for contamination of soil and groundwater caused by the mining process’s chemical waste elements (called waste rock and tailings), which can include harmful arsenic, nickel and cobalt by-products. 

Proactive bioremediation planning and solutions for these waste materials are required before any mining project can begin, but developing and implementing those processes is often cost-prohibitive.

Mitacs-funded research is helping drive a potential game-changing problem-solving collaboration between Orano Canada, one the nation’s largest uranium producers, and the University of Saskatchewan: using bacteria to safely — and completely — contain arsenic in the water surrounding waste rock.

The study is jointly spearheaded by postdoctoral fellow Ali Motalebi (PhD, PEng) and Kerry McPhedran (PhD, PEng, Assistant Professor and principal investigator of the project) — both of the university’s Civil, Geological and Environmental Engineering department — in collaboration with Orano Geo-Environmental Scientist Kebbi Hughes, PhD.

We’re optimistic it can advance environmentally sustainable mining and protect the Saskatchewan environment over the long term.— Kebbi Hughes, PhD, Geo-Environmental Scientist at Orano Canada

Although the team is currently researching the bioremediation of arsenic, the process has the potential to be modified to target other heavy metals and harmful elements and could be applied across the mining industry globally. In addition to fostering mutually beneficial long-term collaborations between the stakeholders, this research could lead to an environmentally friendly, cost-effective bioremediation process that would allow more Canadian businesses to access uranium deposits, create jobs and strengthen the Saskatchewan economy.

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Mitacs Team

Mitacs’s website content is created by people throughout our organization, united in their passion for innovation and eager to share their perspectives with others in the innovation ecosystem. 

Mitacs is a national, not-for-profit organization that has designed and delivered research and training programs in Canada for over 20 years. Working with over 100 post-secondary institutions, more than 6,000 companies and not-for-profit organzations, and both federal and provincial governments, we build partnerships that support industrial and social innovation in Canada. 

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